The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) is strategically driving the adoption of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in all her accounting operations to suit the present and next generation of professionals. In this interview, Razak Jaiyeola, 54th president of the Institute explains the strategic thinking behind this, importance of Accountability Index and the plans of the Institute for members. He speaks with KELECHI EWUZIE. Excerpt:
How would you assess the accounting profession in Nigeria, in terms of its contribution to the growing economy?
The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) contributes a lot to the development of the economy because we have active members working as accountants across all sectors of the economy.
Whatever form of business being carried out in the public sector, we have our members there. We provide insurgency practice, tax services, corporate services, secretariat services among other pivotal services.
In terms of the economy, we have what we call economy discourse or forum where we take critical look at the budget with the view of advising government before a budget is released.
Furthermore, after the release of the budget, we hold seminars for very important top government officials in the Ministry of Finance; Ministry of Trade and Investment, and sometimes organise visit to Vice President among other programmes.
We annually hold Accountants Conference where critical national issues are picked and professionally discussed with solutions proffered. The Accountants’ Conference is the flagship of our activities for the year where we gather over 4,000 Accountants from all over the world.
The fight against corruption by the Federal government is on going, as a professional, what factors would be instrumental to achieving success in this fight?
The administration of President Muhammadu Buhari has made some progress in the fight against corruption which was his main mantra when he assumed office. However, the progress is not as much as a lot of people expected.
I believe that one of the ways Mr President can make progress in the fight against corruption is through the deployment of special courts to trial cases in order to accelerate these cases.
The Federal Government’s whistle blower policy is good, but incidentally, ICAN first introduced its own in 2015 as a way of assuring ICAN members to be bold to expose any financial wrong doing they notice in the course of carrying out their duties because the Institute will support such actions.
So, when the Federal Government introduced its own whistle blower policy, we were very happy, and we realised that government is already making some recoveries through this process.
ICAN is also introducing Accountability Index. This is a way of ensuring the assessment of public sector financial management. We are introducing this index to rate the Federal, State and Local Governments. We have some indicators that we are going to monitor to rank performance and it is going to be done professionally at the end of the day.
The first report will be launched in September, 2018. We are very much on course and we believe the index report will introduce competition. The Accountability Index report is one weapon which a lot of organisations have welcomed. Some governors have already bought into the idea.
We have also gotten collaborations with other professional bodies like International Federation of Accountants (IFAC). They have invested into the project. We are doing this as our own contribution to the fight against corruption.
In your inaugural speech, you talked about the idea of job creation through ICT. What are some of the programmes you hope to put in place to ensure creation of jobs for ICAN members?
The Institute has several faculties such as audit, forensic, IT, tax, public finance and consulting faculties. It also has mentoring platforms for ICAN members. The platforms consist of very experienced members of the ICAN, whose duties are to provide practical assistance to members who want to set up a practice of their own.
Experienced professionals in the platform guide members through processes to use the instrumentality of the Institute in taking off. For example, the first six months, members registered on the platform have access to ICAN’s common secretariat pool and other facilities that the Institute can provide.
Another avenue of job creation for ICAN members has to do with pure entrepreneurial initiatives. The Institute will continue to train its members on entrepreneurial skills. We are not going to dabble into areas that are not of our core competence.
On the issue of funding, we are going to collaborate with funding agencies. We have had arrangements with the Bank of Industry (BoI) and so many other organisations to facilitate these processes.
I noticed that packaging an appropriate bankable loan proposal remain an issue for some members of the ICAN. So, we are working very hard to ensure that at the end of this presidential year, we want to be able to develop a sizeable number of our members to become entrepreneurs.
It will also be clear that the empowered members were able to achieve it through the effort of the Institute because we are going to set up units in the districts that have already bought into the idea.
As ICAN president, what are some of the proper Accounting frame work you plan to implement to spur progress for not just your members but also for the economy?
For the economy, we have International Federation of Reporting Standards (IFRS). For the public sector, we have International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS). Those who have integrated reporting bring to bear some other parameters that are not visible in ordinary financial statement.
These are the key frame works upon which any other thing is built, but more importantly, we have introduced a lot of ICT skills into our members, we have already started our technology competence initiatives.
The reality of today is that businesses are being driven seriously by ICT, and there are lots of new developments in the world of information technology such as artificial intelligence, block chain etc. The Accountants we are producing today have to be digitally skilled; we made sure we injected a lot of IT into our syllabus because IT is very key. These are the totality of what we are trying to do.
The Federal Government plans to merge polytechnics with universities and some polytechnics are still offering accounting as a course. What are your plans to continue the development of manpower in the university and polytechnics?
We have Mutual Corporation with tertiary institutions. The kernel of the programme is that we are looking at a situation where all tertiary institutions syllabus will be unified.
Secondly, we have to buy into ICAN syllabus such that by the time the current university students are graduating they will be qualified having passed through uniform syllabus.
Again, we are engaging with the management of National Universities Commission (NUC) to develop syllabus for them at the moment, which is more or less ICAN syllabus.
We will be sending ICAN members to universities to monitor the standards of ICAN examination and ensure that they meet a number of criteria.We have scheme put in place. These universities should have computer laboratories and we will monitor it. We believe that with all these processes, we will continue to produce high profile digital Accountants that will impact positively on the economy.
What is the progress report concerning ICAN’s on-going investments in tertiary institutions?
We developed lecture theatres in several institutions across the geo-political zones of Nigeria. This is also a kind of model in institutions where such structures are set up. ICAN have built a couple of them, but we are currently assessing the impact of that viz-a-viz other measures to put in place to ensure that we get maximum return on investments.
You have one year tenure as ICAN president, what would you want to be remembered for after you finish your tenure?
I want to be remembered as the ICAN president that produced the highest number of Accountants that are digital in nature. There are also some projects that are very dear to my heart that I do not want to make public yet. But I am sure that at the end of my tenure, they will be visible.